Smartphone integration, car-to-car comms on the menu as E-Class takes over as Benz technology leader

JOHN CAREY

Mercedes reveals E-Class tech blitz

Smartphone integration, car-to-car comms on the menu as E-Class takes over as Benz technology leader

MOVE over S-Class, the next Mercedes-Benz E-Class is set to become the brand’s tech flagship, with a number of world-first features.

Although the W213 E-Class is still at least six months from production and won’t hit Australian showrooms until late 2016, Mercedes-Benz has revealed some of its innermost secrets.

The E-Class will introduce at least four world firsts, in safety, convenience and driver assistance. Engineers promise it will include semi-autonomous driving aids a level above those that wowed the world when the current S-Class was revealed only two years ago.

Further, the E-Class will gain a couple of technologies that lift Mercedes to parity in related areas with what is offered by BMW and Audi.

Mercedes-Benz hasn’t revealed the exterior or interior of the new E-Class yet, but Wheels has caught the new model testing. It will share its MRA (Modular Rear-drive Architecture) with the current S-Class, but will leapfrog the bigger Benz with a more extensive suite of tech that will eventually trickle up to the flagship.

The new E-Class will ditch the current range of V6 powerplants, reverting instead to inherently smoother in-line six-cylinder engines. These modular engines will be closely related to the four-cylinder units offered in the entry-level E-Class, in an approach fast becoming the industry norm.

There will also be more hybridisation, as confirmed at January’s Detroit motor show. The E300 was the first hybrid Mercedes offered in Australia when it arrived in 2013.

“In a short period of time a new E-Class will come to market; of course there will be an E-Class hybrid, because all cars C-Class and upward we definitely have to prepare for plug-in hybrid,” said Benz boss Dieter Zetsche.

The only complete car at a recent tech briefing in Stuttgart was swathed in heavy camouflage, inside and out. We know it will carry less weight, with more extensive use of aluminium, as with the latest C-Class. And it will offer semiautonomous driving to a greater extent than the current S-Class.

Driver assistance systems engineer Alexander Schaab said Mercedes would be ready when laws change to permit truly autonomous driving.

“We will be coming very quickly with a solution,” he promised.

The company is not discussing which of the technologies it showcased will be standard and which will be optional.

What is clear is that the new E-Class, at least in fully loaded form, will set a new advancedtech benchmark not only for its class, but for the brand as well. Stuttgart has the R&D pedal to the metal, and shows no sign of lifting off.

E-Class will include driving aids a level above those that wowed the world when the current S-Class was revealed only two years ago